Story of miners-turned-artists told with little drama

Review

Story of miners-turned-artists told with little drama

Feb 24 2012
Hap Erstein | Palm Beach Post

... Hall, best known for writing Billy Elliot as both a film and a musical, uses the miners' history to explore issues of art and the nature of talent, while downplaying the human struggle of these men. Palm Beach Dramaworks certainly does its part, gathering a terrific company of actors for the play's area premiere... Unschooled since the age of 11 to work the mines, these grown men enroll in an art appreciation course to better themselves. But their instructor is so frustrated by their ignorance of the basic tenets of art, he gives them each a brush, paint and canvas in the hope that they can learn by doing. This impromptu experiment in self-expression unleashes unexpected wells of artistic talent, turning the miners into what became known as The Ashington Group, working-class painters whose art has been acclaimed far beyond the novelty of its creators' naivete. Early on, the miners and their lack of knowledge is the source of much easy humor. (The instructor mentions "Titian" and a miner responds "Bless you.") When a comely young girl arrives to pose nude for a life study exercise, the miners fall all over themselves in comic embarrassment. ...Director J. Barry Lewis stages the play simply and effectively, drawing good work from his cast...